Okay, this isn't the most dignified photo of my grandmother but then my grandmother wasn't the most dignified woman.
Grammy died this morning, in her sleep.
She was born 96 years, one month and a couple of days ago.
Her life wasn't always easy. In fact, I would say that it was rarely easy. She lost her own mother at only 6 years old. Bounced between aunts and an orphanage. Her marriage to my grandfather was something that most women today would never endure.
My grandmother was a pistol, as my dad would say. In fact, a couple of years ago, my family was gathered for Christmas. My dad said something that was pretty shocking to me. He said, with Grammy in the room, "Your Grandmother is in great health. I bet she will make it to a 100." I said that I wasn't taking that bet, how could I possibly win? Grammy sat for a moment and then said "I'll take that bet. I win either way!"
That was Grammy.
Sharp, funny and always looking at life from love.
About 7 years ago, I asked Grammy what her favorite part of her life so far was. She said "All of it." While I knew that shouldn't be true, considering her life, I knew that she meant it. When pressed she told me about going out to the clubs to listen to music and dance with my grandfather. I thought of her, as a young woman in the 1930s, listening to the big bands and the upstarts. Moving to the music and feeling like the world was hers. That still makes me smile.
I spent some time with her a couple of weeks ago. She was fragile and didn't know me.
We sat looking at the finch house at the assisted living center where she lived. She was quiet. I rubbed her back. I stroked her long white hair that was knotted into a bun. She didn't say much this time. She has been leaving for a while. She was mostly somewhere else.
When I arrived I rounded a corner and there she was, sitting in her wheelchair in the hallway. When I asked her what she was doing, she told me that she had just gotten back from the movies. I asked her what movie and while she didn't remember the movie, she said she enjoyed it. Figuring that she hadn't just seen a movie, I asked her where she saw it and she named the two movie houses from her youth. I told her that I was glad that she had a good time.
We just hung out together. Every once in a while, she would say something. I would hug her and tell her I loved her. She would say that she loved me, that she loved everybody. She did. And truly, everyone who met my grandmother for the entirety of her life, loved her.
She sat with a faint smile on her face and I asked her if she was happy. She said "Why not?"
That was my Grammy.
I will never be the woman that she was and I will never stop trying to be more like her. She is my Grammy, my role model and the perfect combination of strength and love.
I will never stop loving her and if my mind slips from my body when I am older, I hope that some of its jaunts are to our happy times together.
Dance, beautiful Lillian, dance.